Saving Seeds

Saving Seeds

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As a person that works for a seed company I often hear confusion and complaints around the idea of “saving seeds”. When I first started working in Ag, I too was confused on the concept. I mean really, what do you do with the leftovers?

Let me use wheat for example, and clarify that I am not in any way speaking on behalf of any companies, and all companies have contracts on the topic (allowing or not allowing).

All sates have an agriculture department that monitors regulated seed. Regulated just means that somewhere along the way someone managed to perfect (usually by breeding, but GMO would fall into this as well) a seed and give it a name, file some paperwork on it to claim the specific breeding of seed. In Washington the department that monitors this for wheat is called Washington State Crop Improvement Association. Their job is to monitor and make sure seed doesn’t get we’ll say impersonated or counterfeit, that customers can trust that it is what they are told it is. They do this with a certification process.

Now to clarify more, no one is required to buy certified seed. The benefit is that it has documented results, where as with non-certified seed there is no real way to know what you have. Think buying a papered dog, papers mean its not a mutt.

However, if you choose to buy certified seed, you will often be required to enter into a contract agreeing that should you not use all of the seed you will either return the seed or dispose of it. This clause prevents “mutts”, it’s the spay or neutering of ag.

Scenario 1: farmer Joe goes out and buys seed to grow 100 acres of wheat, he is farming dry land and his field is in a good area, no real risk of disease or other issues. After planting he realizes he has seed leftover. If he purchased non-certified seed, he’s free to store it and use it again next year. Doing so he risks quality and contamination. Depending on his end goal, this may not be of concern, which is also why he may prefer non-certified seed. This is the scenario most people think about.

Scenario 2: Frank has a field in an area that tends to have issue with disease, he is limited on land, and his customer is looking for high protein levels. After researching he finds that company x has a product that seems to fit his needs. He talked to neighbor farmers and decides that he is going to purchase wheat seed 2468. The company goes over the contract with him explains the certified guarantee and the no seed saved clause. Frank gets the benefit of perfected plant breeding and if his crop has a bunch of off types or problems, the company will work with him and have some kind of resolution where he would get compensated. The company gets the benefit of the no seed saved clause so they don’t have to worry that Frank will harvest his field and then start selling the seed to neighbors – basically considered pirated seed.

When you think of it as seed its harder to see what the big deal is and why they can’t save seed, I mean they purchased it after all. But if you look at it as if it were a different product it would make perfect sense.

Look at software for example. Generally, people don’t question why when you buy Microsoft office you can’t buy one license and then download it on your computer, all the computers at the middle school, and all the computers at the high school too. Most people think, no, you need a license per computer or an agreement for multi-user.

Look at DVDs, its not considered okay to buy the movie and then distribute copies of the movie to all your neighbors. Yes, you bought it, and you bought the blank DVDs, but the base material was not yours to duplicate.

Basically the work behind the scenes is considered intellectual property. The seed itself is not the prized possession, its the breeding that went into it.

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Weekend herbal garden build

Weekend herbal garden build:

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In the past several years I’ve become more and more interested in herbs. I didn’t have much exposure as a kid so my cooking with herbs has been a hit and miss trial process. My dad used to make stew and just dump a little of all the spices in…. it was awful! But over the years (despite dad’s teachings) I’ve gotten to be okay in the cooking department. I’ve kept this mainly under wraps. I’ve never minded being the wife that can’t cook. When working funky shifts it really came in handy, so I just played it up. I must have done a good job too, because when I finally made a true home cooked meal for my in-laws they were shocked and kept telling me “no, really, it’s actually good”. It was quite funny, ha-ha. Now my schedule has calmed down a lot, so I don’t mind playing the good wife role.

Anyway, back on topic. This is the first time I’ve ever had an herb garden, so I’m really not sure how this will turn out. I like using natural remedies whenever possible. Which may sound contradictive to some given I work for “the evil” Monsanto, ha-ha. No worries, I won’t go into pro GMO or anything. Anyway, I wanted to have herbs for food, basic remedies, and tea (because, I like tea).  After searching on-line I was having a hard time choosing which herbs, and finding one source for all. And honestly some were a bit extreme and reminded me of the time my dad took me to a gun show and we realized after we got in that it was not like the ones at our local fairgrounds, but more like a pro-Hitler gun club. Anyone remember the movie Rat Race and the Barbie museum? Yea, kinda like that, but I digress. So I found a set on Amazon that looked good, plus I’m a Prime member so I got free 2 day shipping. Can’t go wrong with that.

Here’s a pic:

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This can also be found at http://www.mypatriotsupply.com

Hubby built me a raised bed and we hit up some yard sales and freebees for planting pots. Some herbs help with fly control so I needed some that can move around as I need, and some herbs are an invasive species and will run wild if you let it. And honestly I’m not sure which they are for sure, so I may have to replant some if I guessed wrong.

On the raised bed I filled the bottom with these huge rocks that someone actually trucked in for “beauty”. Honestly this amazes me because this rock is so prevalent around most of Grant County you actually see rock walls made of it on people’s property.  So given my built in hatred for this rock style, I used some to take up space at the bottom of my raised bed.

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I also used a couple small old stumps I didn’t know what to do with. Once the bottom was filled about 8 inches deep I (and by I, I mean, Hubby) filled it with dirt until it was about 6 inches from the top. Next we put in garden potting soil.

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I added a few scrap pieces of wood to divide up the bed so that I could keep track of things a bit better. Then I laid out my seed packets to decide how to set it up. For now I wrote on popsicle sticks what is planted in each spot (I found a couple cute ideas on pinterest I may switch them out for later). I tried to have the tallest on the North side so that it won’t give too much shade.

layout

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Here is what I planted:

Food –

Sage

Oregano

Thyme

Parsley

Cilantro

Basil

 

Tea- (some double for medicinal)

Wild Bergamot

Anise Hyssop

Chamomile

Lemon Balm

Lemon Mint

Peppermint

 

Medicinal-

Catnip

Hyssop

Culver’s Root

Nettle

 

 

 

Planting is fun for all! Love my little helper.

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The Week’s Life Notes

 

  1. Dirt smells like mold or well, dirt. Now this may sound obvious, but apparently I’m not always so observant. Off and on the last few days I’ve been thinking something smelled moldy. I inspected the bread, tossed my can of coke, and at one point just figured I was imagining it. Then it occurred to me that, wait for it…… the seed starter tray was set on my dinner table. You’d think I’d move it, but alas, no. I’ve thought about it, yet there it sits. Bringing me to point 2.
  2. If when starting seeds your child wants to grow something out of season, re-direct him. I now have very tall radish plants and I’m not too sure what I want to do with them.

 

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3.   Come February, all of January’s great intentions go out the window. I’m lucky with my job, at Christmas I get several paid days off (24th through 2nd), plus I usually burn up the last of my vacation (use it or lose it). As a result I get to be stay at home mom for that time (hubby only as the actual holidays off).  I get organized, the house stays in great shape, I get crafts done, it’s great. Then I go back to work, and it tends to go right out the window. All cleaning is done on the weekend along with all the laundry which is usually either worn or put away by Wednesday. This is also partly due to point 4.

4.     It’s cold! As in 5 degrees, and that’s Fahrenheit. Plus add in the wind chill and according to the news it has been between -8 and -28. Any idea how hard it is to stay motivated when its that cold and everyone in the house but you goes to bed by 8? Let me tell you how much I’ve gotten done lately. Minimal.

 

Here’s a funny to get you through your day:

 

Seed starts & fly control

Seed starts & fly control

I’ve given up on winter. No snow, 40 degrees in January, raining at 28, I’m over it. So, in honor of moving on, we planted seeds. Yes, it’s a bit early, but the thing I learned last year is that we need a natural pest control system. With the location of our little mini farm, we have flies. Gross I know. As a kid my step mom had 20-25 horses on 10 acres, we had flies, but this is worse. I grew up in dry land wheat and cattle ranch country. Now I’m in the land of irrigated corn and feed lots. We don’t live so close that we smell the feed lots, but there are at least 3 within 10 minutes of our home. And we have an irrigated cornfield on each side of our property.

Back to the seed starting.

There are a few herbs that work as natural fly repellants: basil, lavender, mint, rosemary, and bay.

We plan to have a handful of plants in the house, then several planters full on the patio around the back doors and probably one out front, hence, starting early.

Here are a few tips for starting seeds:

  1. Hedge your bets: choose plants that are easy to start. Basil is a good one, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes are also easy-ish.
  2. Timing is everything: you can find planting guides for all regions. The back of seed packets will list how deep to plant, germination rates (how long to sprout), and a general guide on how long till maturity.
  3. Have a drain tray. You can use nursery flats or punch holes in the bottom of a container that is about 2-3 inches deep, and set it on a tray or plate. By having the holes in the bottom you don’t have to worry too much about over watering, and that’s my style.
  4. If you’re just starting out, buy seed starter mix. Yes you can make your own, but I’d wait till you’ve been starting your own for at  least a season, that way you won’t be adding more unknowns to the learning process.
  5. Mini-greenhouse: cover your seed starts with plastic wrap, glass, or a tray cover and keep them around 70 degrees. Keep the soil moist.
  6. At the 1st sign of sprouts, move to the sun.
  7. Once they have germinated they don’t need to stay as warm. About 1 week before replanting outside, start to acclimate the starts to cooler temperatures. Set them outside for a little, do so more and more each day.

For us, one of the big parts of living in the country is the ability to raise our son in a way that he is able to learn lessons that have been passed down through family generations. I want him to know and understand the strength of his heritage.  He comes from a family of farmers, ranchers, and service men and women.  Above all he comes from hardworking people that take care of their own and step up to help others.

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